In 1940 the Minneapolis Public Library was housed in a granite and limestone building on the corner of Tenth Street and Hennepin Avenue, and although it looked cold and forbidding from the outside, it was a friendly place for “street” people to get warm, or perhaps grab a nap. One of those people was a man named Pat Cronin.
Pat was an alcoholic and he wanted help. The Library had a copy of the newly published book “Alcoholics Anonymous” which contained the address of the General Service Office. So, Pat took the “Big Book” from the Library- he didn’t check out the book, he just took it- and he wrote to Ruth Hock, Bill W’s secretary in New York. Ruth replied to Pat that there were no groups in Minnesota, so she would pass on his letter to some AA members in Chicago.
In the forties the football rivalry between the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan was a really big deal, a sporting event that was recognized nationally. The winner of the game each year took home the prize: the “Little Brown Jug.” It was not unusual for people to travel long distances to attend this important football game, and two AA members from Chicago, Chan F. and Bill L., made the trip to Minneapolis.
The 1940 game was on November 9th and Minnesota won with a score of 7 to 6 to become the national college champion. Chan and Bill decided to stay another day to celebrate the win, and return to Chicago on the 11th.
On November 11, 1940 the “Armistice Day Blizzard” hit the upper Midwest. The blizzard, considered the second worst weather event in Minnesota history, lasted for two days. Nothing moved. Of course, in 1940 there were no freeways or hourly air service – you drove on 2 lane roads or took the train, and the blizzard stopped everything that moved on the ground. Chan and Bill were stuck, so they decided to make a few calls to people referred to them by Ruth Hock. As the story goes, they called on all the people on the list and had no answers until the very last name – Pat C.
By this time Pat had an apartment, and Chan and Bill went to see him. They spent a whole day talking to Pat about AA, and Pat was interested but not convinced (he was, after all, an alcoholic.) The next day the weather was still raging and they were still stuck, so Chan and Bill went back to visit Pat again. This time the miracle happened – Pat heard the message.
From that day in 1940 until his death, Pat C. worked tirelessly to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous to those who suffered. He started meetings, he worked with treatment centers and law enforcement and he sponsored new members into AA. Certainly there were others who did the work too, but Pat is generally credited with starting AA in the upper Midwest.
Founder’s Day Minnesota began as a celebration of one year of sobriety for AA members, and this wonderful event continues to this day as one of the major AA conventions in our area.
I would never suggest that God sent a terrible storm to help bring AA to Minnesota, but I believe that God did allow for everyone to be in the right place at the right time. It is possible that some of the events I relate here are not reported accurately, but it’s a darn good story anyway, don’t you think? We don’t know if Pat ever returned the “Big Book” to the Library.
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